On Eve of Dietary Guideline Release, Nutrition Coalition Hails First-Ever Peer Review of The Dietary Guidelines

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016

Washington—Due to concerns that the Dietary Guidelines for America (DGAs) have failed to improve health in America, Congress mandated the first-ever peer review of the DGAs, by the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), as part of the fiscal year 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill. To ensure the review is conducted in a timely manner, Congress appropriated $1 million.

The Statement of Managers language accompanying the bill says that members of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, several of whom are also on the NAM Food and Nutrition Board, are expected to recuse themselves from the process.

The language states further that: “Questions have been raised about the scientific integrity of the process in developing the dietary guidelines and whether balanced nutritional information is reaching the public. The entire process used to formulate and establish the guidelines needs to be reviewed before future guidelines are issued. It is imperative that the guidelines be based upon strong, balanced science and focus on providing consumers with dietary and nutritional information that will assist them in eating a healthy and balanced diet. At a minimum, the process should include: full transparency, a lack of bias, and the inclusion and consideration of all of the latest available research and scientific evidence, even that which challenges current dietary recommendations.” (Future guidelines” refers to the 2020 edition.)

A high level of concern about the DGAs was expressed by both Democrats and Republicans at a Congressional hearing on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines on October 7th, 2015. Statements of concern expressed by members of Congress at the hearing can be found here.

According to the Omnibus bill (here, Sec 735), the next guidelines need to “better prevent chronic disease,” reflecting the fact that since the DGAs were launched 35 years ago, rates of obesity and diabetes have soared; in fact, the obesity epidemic began in the very year, 1980, that the DGAs were introduced.

The bill also states that the NAM review must address:

  • How the DGAs can better ensure nutritional sufficiency for all Americans, and accommodate a range of individual factors, including age, gender, and metabolic health.
  • How the advisory committee selection process can be improved to provide more transparency, eliminate bias, and include members with a range of viewpoints.
  • How the Nutrition Evidence Library is compiled and utilized, including whether Nutrition Evidence Library reviews and other systematic reviews and data analysis are conducted according to rigorous and objective scientific standards.
  • How systematic reviews are conducted on longstanding Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations, including whether scientific studies are included from scientists with a range of viewpoints.
  • Recommendations to improve the process used to establish the Dietary Guidelines and to ensure the Dietary Guidelines reflect balanced sound science.

To date, the DGAs have never been peer-reviewed, which is a standard process for scientific papers and is especially important for a report with so much influence over the nation’s eating habits. See “Why are the Guidelines Important?” on our website, here.

“The Nutrition Coalition salutes Congress for taking action to improve the nation’s health. Our board, led by best-selling investigative author and science journalist Nina Teicholz, advocated for policy based on rigorous science. The Nutrition Coalition does not promote any particular diet: our goal is simply to ensure that nutrition policy is based on a comprehensive review of the most rigorous and current science in order to best serve the public health,” stated Dr. Sarah Hallberg, Executive Director of the Nutrition Coalition.

“I was amazed by the level of concern I heard from members of Congress about the fact that the Dietary Guidelines have failed to combat the major nutrition-related diseases of our time,” Teicholz said. “They know something’s wrong. Yet because they’re wary of treading into scientific matters, an outside review of the Guidelines by such an esteemed institution as the NAM is an ideal way to ensure future Guidelines are free of politics and entrenched interests.”

Her article in the British Medical Journal documented many of the concerns reflected in the October 7th hearing.

For more information on issues concerning the science and the process of the Guidelines, see The NutritionCoalition website.

# # #

The Nutrition Coalition is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for national nutrition policy based on rigorous science. The Nutrition Coalition is funded by the Action Now Initiative (ANI) – an advocacy group supported by Houston-based philanthropists Laura and John D. Arnold – which funds initiatives to ensure public policy is based on sound science. No financial support is provided by industry groups of any kind. More information on the Nutrition Coalition can be found by visiting www.nutrition-coalition.org.